The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja has deferred judgement on an appeal challenging the decision of the Taraba State Election Petition Tribunal on the April 11 gubernatorial election in the state.
On November 7, the tribunal nullified the election of Darius Ishaku as governor of Taraba State on the premise of breach in his nomination as candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the April polls.
The tribunal chairman, Musa Abubakar, had ruled that there were overwhelming evidences that the PDP never conducted a primary election to field Mr. Ishaku as the party’s flag bearer in the election.
He said the evidence of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, where the commission claimed that it had no record of any primary election conducted by PDP in Taraba State, was in clear violation of Section 85 of the Electoral Act.
The tribunal therefore ruled that the PDP votes in the election were merely vitiated, and then declared that the APC candidate, Aisha Alhassan, be declared the winner of the election.
But counsel to Mr. Ishaku filed an appeal on December 25, requesting the appeal court to set aside the decision of the tribunal, arguing that his client was duly qualified for the primaries, which he claimed was held successfully.
The counsel, Kanu Agabi, told the court on Monday that the issue of sponsorship arose from the constitution and should therefore not be addressed from the context of the electoral act.
Mr. Agabi further said one of the witnesses brought before the tribunal by the APC, known as PW 78, admitted in a part of his evidence that Mr. Ishaku was duly sponsored and qualified for the election.
He argued that even if the elections were marred by irregularities, as suggested by the APC and its candidate, the tribunal was wrong in declaring the APC winner of an allegedly illegal election.
But counsel to the APC, Abiodun Owonikoko, told the court that the evidence quoted by Mr. Agabi from PW 78 was wrongly quoted.
He said a word was removed from the quote which changed its entire meaning.
Mr. Owonikoko informed the court that the word ‘not’ was excluded from the sentence of the evidence provided by PW 78, as quoted by Mr. Agabi.
The lawyer cited paragraph 15 (C) of the 4th Schedule of the Constitution, covering issues of party primaries, arguing that the participation of a candidate in his or her party’s primaries was a pre-requisite for participation in the secondary election.
Counsel to INEC, Joseph Daudu, however said the electoral commission was of the view that the PDP candidate was duly qualified to participate in the said election.
In response, Mr. Ownikoko said INEC had no legal authority to approve a candidate as either qualified or not.
Counsel to APC, Mahmud Magaji, said his party was concerned about the qualification of Mr. Ishaku in the said election.
But Counsel to the PDP, Solomon Aku, however argued that the only person that had a ground to contest the qualification of a candidate in the party’s primaries is a contender in the primaries.
He therefore argued that the APC as a party could not contest the eligibility or otherwise of Mr. Ishaku in the election, citing Section 89 (9) of the Constitution.
The presiding judge, Abdul Aboki, therefore ruled that a date for the judgment would be communicated to the parties later.